Intel CEO Krzanich Pledges Hardware Fix Later This Year For Spectre, Meltdown Vulnerabilities


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Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Thursday said the chip giant is set to release processors later this year aimed at eliminating the threat posed by the Spectre and Meltdown exploits.

"We are working to incorporate silicon-based changes to future products that will directly address the Spectre and Meltdown threats in hardware," said Krzanich in a conference call with analysts. "Those products will begin appearing later this year."

Intel partner Michael Goldstein, CEO of LAN Infotech, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he couldn't be happier that the company is fixing the architectural flaw once and for all with new silicon.

[Related: 5 Questions Partners Have For Intel About Spectre And Meltdown Ahead Of Its Q4 Earnings]

"You couldn't ask for a better solution to this problem," he said. "I can't imagine what it is costing Intel to make this fix in silicon. We're looking forward to getting the new processors."

Goldstein praised Krzanich and Intel for responding with a redesign of the processors to effectively lock out the Spectre and Meltdown threats in hardware. 

"It sounds to me like Intel is redesigning the processor to put an end to this," he said. "Remember this flaw has been part of the chip design for the last 20 years. This is a flaw in the processor architectural design that Intel is fixing. We couldn't be happier. This is great for the industry. I think this is going to have a calming effect on the entire industry. I am sure our customers will feel more secure about buying Intel products."

Krzanich's comments come on the heels of Intel's Spectre and Meltdown exploits, which were revealed at the beginning of January and affect chips from multiple vendors, including AMD and ARM.

The flaws, which account for three variants of a side-channel analysis security issue in server and PC processors, could potentially enable hackers to access protected data.

Despite the flaws and subsequent new silicon-based fixes, Krzanich said on the earnings call he doesn't expect "any material impact" on Intel's financial results.

"At the highest level, we're not seeing much of a change in [our] forecasts as a result of this … it's pretty balanced right now," he said.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 167 on the 2016 CRN Solution Provider 500, said the new processors with the silicon fix could spark a hardware refresh later this year.

"These products will future-proof customers against the threats that are currently plaguing the Intel ecosystem," said Venero. "For customers with aging Intel infrastructure, this could be a catalyst for them to refresh their installed base a lot sooner than they wanted to."

Venero cautioned that the new processors that will appear later this year with the fix do not remediate the current threat. "Intel needs to continue down the current path of patches and updates are remediated as quickly as possible," he said.

Krzanich, for his part, noted that the circumstances surrounding Spectre and Meltdown are "highly dynamic" causing Intel to update the "risk factors" in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"We have updated our risk factors to reflect both the evolving nature of these specific threats and mitigations as well as the security challenge more broadly," he said. "Security has always been a priority for us, and these events reinforce our continuous mission to develop the world's most secure products. This will be an on-going journey. But we are committed to the task, and I am confident we are up to the challenge."

Krzanich stressed that Intel has been working "around the clock" with partners and customers to address Spectre and Meltdown threats with "high-quality mitigations" aimed at protecting customer infrastructure.

"While we've made progress I'm acutely aware that we have more to do. We're committed to being transparent, keeping our customers and owners appraised of our progress, and through our actions, building trust," he said.

Overall, Intel posted fourth-quarter earnings of $1.08 a share on sales of $17.1 billion, about 4 percent higher than the same quarter a year ago.

That revenue is higher than the outlook of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters who predicted earnings of 86 cents a share on sales of $16.34 billion.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's stock rose more than 4.5 percent in after-hours trading.

Intel saw strong growth in its Data Center Group, which rose 20 percent year-over-year to $5.6 billion. Intel's Internet of Things Group also saw growth, increasing 21 percent year-over-year. Meanwhile, the company's Client Computing Group was down in the fourth quarter 2 percent year-over-year.

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